Falmouth Hospital Auxiliary Celebrates 60 years

HYANNIS – When you walk through any of the entrances ofFalmouth Hospitalyou are greeted by smiling volunteers who also happen to be members of theFalmouth Hospital Auxiliary. They give you directions, sign you in for procedures, answer questions and, if necessary, offer a listening ear.

It is with that same caring and openness that 60 years ago, 60 women came together to form the Falmouth Hospital Auxiliary. Their goal was to raise funds for a new hospital and then continue on as volunteers within the hospital once it was built.

In a story published in the Falmouth Enterprise on May 17, 1957, the auxiliary was described as “a group of enterprising women who are interested in working for the benefit of the hospital in its formative state and after the hospital is a reality.” The article included their roles of assisting in preparing lists and help with the clerical work of the Falmouth Hospital Association, the group that oversaw the fundraising and building of the hospital.

Additionally, they would do “essential sewing, make bed spreads and quilts, prepare surgical dressings, form a ladies’ visiting committee and do volunteer services such as running a hobby shop and a library, arranging flowers, etc.,” according to the article.

Winnie Fitzpatrick, current president of the Falmouth Hospital Auxiliary has some of the original volunteer handbooks. One of the earlier ones had the following description of a volunteer: “A good volunteer is a friendly and efficient ambassador of goodwill.”

The booklet also had a cautionary guideline about their time spent in the hospital: “Anything you see here, anything you hear here, stays here.”

The auxiliary has come a long way since the early days, but the mission remains essentially the same. And they will celebrate those changes and successes with a special luncheon on Oct. 11 at the Coonamessett Inn in Falmouth.

Evolution of Volunteering and Fundraising

Today, a 20-member board of directors and 146 auxiliary members, including men and women, provide volunteer support in the various departments throughout the hospital and raise funds to meet its physical and equipment needs.

“Falmouth Hospital’s patients benefit in so many ways from this generous group of auxilians,” said Nancy Leanues, Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation liaison for the Falmouth Hospital and Cape Cod Hospital Auxiliaries. “They wear two hats: they are volunteers who help in many departments at the hospital and they volunteer at the Falmouth Hospital Thrift Shop and Gift Shop, raising money for the hospital. They have a wonderful team of volunteers who make sweaters, baby blankets, quilts, scarves and other creative works of art for the gift shop.

“Their financial gifts through the years total almost $6 million. This incredible total was raised dollar by dollar.”

Men have come to play a more active role, especially through volunteerism throughout the hospital and working in theVRI Personal Emergency Response systemsprogram. They do installations and provide and instruct seniors about the medical alert system in their homes. They volunteer throughout the hospital and the the past two presidents of the organization have been men.

“The board is the core of the auxiliary and does the organizing of the fundraisers,” said Fitzpatrick.

Historically, the auxiliary has done one major fundraiser in the spring. These included luncheons, fashion shows in the spring, and sunset cruises, which are held in the fall. This year, they held a luncheon at the Coonamessett Inn.

They receive other income from the Falmouth Hospital AuxiliaryThrift Shop on Palmer Avenue, and the Falmouth Hospital gift shop, both of which they manage and staff.

“The volunteers are wonderful,” said Fitzpatrick. “We net just about $12,000-$13,000 every month from the shops.”

The money goes towards the five-year pledges the auxiliary makes to meet the needs of the hospital.

“We will make the final payment of our $1 million pledge for the newYawkey Emergency Centerat our annual meeting in October,” said Fitzpatrick. “We will also present $150,000 of our $750,000 pledge to the hospital for the re-modeling of the third floor.”

The organization also gives out 15 scholarships, now in the amount of $3,000 each to Falmouth Hospital employees who are taking college courses to further their medical careers. Additionally, they award the Pat Davis Scholarship in the amount of $2,000 to a worthy Falmouth senior. Pat Davis is the former long-time director of volunteers at Falmouth Hospital and the Auxiliary board established the scholarship in her honor.

“The auxiliary is an extraordinary group of people who are very generous with their time,” said Susan Hanley, director of volunteer services at Falmouth Hospital. “All of the members are volunteers including their board of directors, which is unusual for an auxiliary.”

Call For New Members

While Fitzpatrick continues her duties as president of the board, she sees the growing need for new auxiliary members to carry on the mission.

“In the early days, many women stayed home and were able to volunteer for various organizations,” said Fitzpatrick. “These days, so many work.”

She also spoke about how much working with the auxiliary and volunteering at the hospital means to her.

“I love working with people.”

She volunteers at the Faxon Center and greets many patients every Thursday during her shift. When they recognize her outside of the hospital and comment on having met her when she helped them, it makes her day.

“Things like that make you feel like you are really making a difference,” she said.

By ROBERTA CANNON, Cape Cod Health News

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